LESPaRC Is Centered on Real-Life Weather, Experience
Weather happens in the real world and a meteorology
professor would like his students’ forecasts to happen there, too.
The two-year-old Lake Effect Storm Prediction and Research Center, or LESPaRC, connects meteorology
upperclassmen with paying clients throughout Upstate New York. Co-founder and
Professor Scott Steiger ’99 said
it’s a priceless experience that cannot be replicated in the classroom.
“I thought about how I could get my students involved in
real world meteorology,” Steiger recalled. “This is forecasting for real
customers … it’s the kind of information sports teams would be interested in,
the PGA, construction companies, school districts.”
LESPaRC currently serves five clients, including the center’s
first customer, Oswego City School District. Though only one meteorology major is
on board right now, Steiger would like to add up to three more students as the
client base grows.
Established with a grant from SUNY Oswego’s Office of Research and
Sponsored Programs, the center competes with other consulting firms in the Central New York region and beyond. The center’s
student-employees make forecasts three times a day for each customer, who pay
a monthly fee.
During volatile winter lake-effect events, the work can
require more vigilance.
“Some weeks in the winter, they may be working eight to 10
days straight,” center head of research and Professor Robert Ballentine said.
“You just can’t get that kind of experience in a classroom setting.”
Drew Montreuil ’11
has participated in the department’s forecast contest each of his three years
and done some predictions for class, but his experience at LESPaRC has really
enhanced his abilities.
“It’s definitely a challenge to figure out what the weather
is going to be hour-by-hour,” said Montreuil,
who works with school districts during lake-effect snow events. “In some
aspects it’s similar (to classroom work), but it’s a bit harder because it’s a
very narrow time span.”
The experience has taught him lessons in customer service
and even Web design – Montreuil
“It’s not just a game; you get to see your results in the
real world, not just on a scoreboard,” he said.
Steiger endorsed the student forecasters as capable as any
other meteorologist in forecasting for wind turbine-dependent energy companies
and even the state Department of Transportation. He also monitors what his paid
The next step in LESPaRC’s evolution is finding more clients
and consequently hiring more students, said Steiger, who acts as the center’s
director. In addition to Steiger and Ballentine, the center’s board of
directors includes professors Jamie Kettle, Steven Skubis, Al Stamm and Larry
— Shane M. Liebler
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